Country World Archives 2001-2008
Hot and dry conditions set new records for this time of year
By LORI COPE | East Texas Edition
Dec. 8, 2005 - It’s been dry, it is dry, and it will likely stay dry through the winter, according to the state’s climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon based at Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences.
�But never say �never� when it comes to weather in Texas.
��One good, usual storm can help tremendously,� he said on Nov. 29. �A couple of good storms in the winter will improve conditions rapidly because there�s not a lot of evaporation in winter. It�s not going to salvage the winter growing season, though.�
�Nielsen-Gammon pointed out about two-thirds of the state is in drought, with the worst region being Northeast Texas.
�Drought conditions are also recorded by the Texas Forest Service (TFS). They show, in the Palmer Drought Severity Index, the entire eastern side of Texas is in mild to extreme drought. Their Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which relates expected wildfire behavior, shows severe moisture deficiency for the right-hand side of the state.
�Predictions from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say the drought will continue. �There is little to indicate the precipitation should be above normal� in the next three months, the CPC report indicated. �With 12-month precipitation deficits as high as 15 to 20 inches, several months of above normal precipitation would likely be needed to significantly ease the drought.�
�Winter precipitation is likely to be in the form of rain for Texans. �A slow, upper level trough that passes through Arizona and New Mexico can create a storm system in Central Texas,� Nielsen-Gammon noted, �and precipitation can come up from the Gulf.�
�Forecasts also call for a warmer than normal temperatures this winter, along with the drier than normal precipitation. �Last November was the wettest on record in the state,� the climatologist said. �This November may be one of the driest.�
�One official rainfall total, measured in Dallas-Fort Worth, is 18.64 inches (through the end of November), which is more than 15 inches below �normal.� Information from the National Weather Service�s Fort Worth office shows the rainfall totals in the northern region of the state ranges from 10.16 inches below normal in Grapevine to 18.13 inches below normal in Decatur.
�The agency also points out �much of North Texas, from the DFW metroplex north to the Red River remains in the extreme drought classification.�
�This puts the fire danger level at �very high,� especially when the passage of seasonal fronts lower humidities and heighten winds. Burning bans are in place in many of the counties, but also in much of the state�s central region. Out of the state�s 254 counties, 115 have burning bans in place, as of Nov. 29. (A map with burning ban information is online at www.tamu.edu/ticc/maps/burnbans.jpg)
�A ban means all outdoor burning, including campfires and household trash burning, is prohibited. Violation of an outdoor burning ban is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a possible fine up to $500.�
�But, a burning ban doesn�t have to be in effect for a person to be charged with a violation. �Carelessly allowing your fire to escape and burn onto a neighbor�s property is also a Class C misdemeanor ... and arson is a felony offense,� stated Gary Bennett, TFS chief law enforcement officer.
�Drought conditions are also affecting water resources. Many Texas lakes are several feet below normal pool elevations � from 3 to 12 feet, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
�Pond levels are also low. Although it is a hardship for the purpose of watering livestock, it serves as a good time to clean out ponds. Just don�t burn the piled debris just yet, cited a TFS spokesperson.
�The NWS� winter outlook for Texas concludes �the severity of the drought is expected to persist or worsen over the new few months,� but it has been worse. Statistics from the national agency shows a year-end rainfall total in 1921 was just 17.91 inches; and in 1975, only 1.29 inches were recorded in September through November, compared to 2.27 inches recorded (in DFW) in the same period.